by wjw on February 15, 2021

Hey, it’s Mardi Gras time, and there’s no better way to lighten your lockdown spirits than to get down with some fine New Orleans music!

First up, get your buzz on with “If You’re a Viper” by Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers, part of the Jam in the Van series.

Next up, it’s Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue taking on the Cab Calloway classic, “St. James Infirmary Blues.”  You might recognize some of the folks in his audience. Playing 2nd trombone behind him is Fred Wesley, who used to play with James Brown.

At various points Shorty starts circular breathing, which enables him to play continuously without stopping to breathe. You know he’s doing it when he pops his cheeks, which hold his reserve air supply.

(Some time ago I got curious about circular breathing and learned to do it, not with a musical instrument but with a glass of water and a soda straw.   Since there’s not a lot of audience demand for someone blowing bubbles in a water glass I never kept in practice, and probably couldn’t do it now.)

Thirdly, it’s “Basin St. Blues” by Jack Teagarden and Louis Armstrong, with Earl “Fatha” Hines on piano and Smokey Stover on drums.  Mickey Rooney is featured as “the guy who smokes.”  Amazingly enough, this is a cigarette ad! Ads ran longer in those days.

Teagarden had flawless trombone style, in part because he was a small child when he learned the instrument and his arms were too short to fully extend the slide.  He had to learn to produce the notes entirely with his lip, and also developed alternative positions. He was considered the greatest trombonist in the world back in the Thirties and Forties.

And if that isn’t enough— and why would it be?— here’s a link to several hours of nonstop Mardi Gras music.  You might be in lockdown, but you can still parade up and down your home— and why wouldn’t you?  And nobody’s going to know or care if you’re wearing pants or not.

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